Tom Ridge: Second Thoughts, but Not Second-Guessing, on Homeland Security

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Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge does not want to "second-guess" the motivations of his former colleagues in the Bush Administration. But with a new memoir, The Test of Our Times, about to hit bookstores, he is ready to talk about all the second thoughts he has been having.

For instance, he thinks waterboarding "was and is torture," and he wishes the Bush Administration had not permitted it. He thinks President George W. Bush should have gone to Congress sooner to get permission to expand the National Security Agency's domestic-spying program. He even frowns upon the Bush policy of indefinite detention for suspected terrorists, a policy that the Obama Administration has hinted it may continue to some degree. "It seems inconsistent with a country that prides itself on the rule of law," Ridge said on Aug. 30 in an interview with TIME.

When it comes to the role of Homeland Security Secretary, there are also second looks aplenty. Even though Bush never invited him to a National Security Council meeting, Ridge thinks future Homeland Security chiefs should be asked occasionally to attend. He also says Homeland Security leaders need to be more careful than he was about allowing political language into their public statements.

In particular, he regrets his Aug. 1, 2004, decision to include political language praising Bush in a statement about raising the terrorism threat level. The statement was issued just as Democratic nominee John Kerry was enjoying a post-convention bump in the polls. But he stops short of questioning the intentions of the Bush aides who asked him to include the language in the first place; and contrary to pre-publication media reports that got many former Bush Administration officials up in arms, he claims that the decision to raise the alert was made without regard to political pressure. "I'm not going to second-guess," he says. "But it was wrong for me to put it in."...

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